Ten Things We Learned At The Awards For Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022

We were back in Bangkok again for Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 held on 28th April. After attending Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 a month earlier at the Pullman King Power Aksra Theater, where Den in Tokyo was named the best restaurant in Asia, this time we were at Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental’s Sala Rim Naam, a short boat ride across the Chao Phraya River from the hotel.

Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt

And, not surprisingly, considering the hottest talent from the region’s best bars were in attendance, it was quite a party. Negronis flowed, and so did awards, as the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 team counted down the extended list of 100-51, and then got down to the serious business of the top 50, interspersed with a number of special awards such as the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award, won by Bar Mood in Taipei, the award for highest new entry, which went to Argo Hong Kong, and the Roku Industry Icon Award which went to Singapore bar Nutmeg & Clove’s Colin Chia. In total, there were 14 new entries in a list that featured 16 countries. Here are ten things we learned at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 awards. 

All the winners at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022.

Check 1, 2

It makes sense that in a year when time stood still, there was no change at the top of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list. Singapore’s Jigger & Pony kept its place at #2 and COA stayed at #1. As Jay Khan busies himself with the new COA in Shanghai, his first location, the original Mexican-inspired, agave-centric cocktail bar COA Hong Kong that opened in 2017, has proved it is still wildly popular – and the proof was everyone in attendance chanting Jay’s name as the winner was announced.  

Jay Khan and Lok Cheung from COA celebrate the bar’s No.1 win at the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 awards ceremony, sponsored by Perrier, live in Bangkok, Thailand.

There’s Rooms At The Top

A whopping 11 bars on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list are in hotels. It might seem unfair to pit bars from the Four Seasons or the Mandarin Oriental against small, independently owned spots. But that’s the nature of lists like these. And no one can begrudge BKK Social Club at Bangkok’s Four Seasons or Argo at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, whose beverage ambassador, Lorenzo Antinori, was in attendance to receive the award for Highest New Entry, their success. And it’s heartening that at the top of the list for the second year running is COA, a bar that’s independently run by Jay Khan, which goes to show, money can’t buy success in the list. 

BKK Social Club’s Got Art 

And we don’t just mean the decorations at this buzzing Argentina-inspired bar. BKK Social Club, besides becoming the best bar in Thailand, at #10 on the list, also received Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award. That was despite a particularly traumatic birth. BKK Social Club threw open its doors in December 2020. And closed them again a month and a half later due to COVID restrictions. “The last few years have been incredibly difficult for our industry, and I could not be prouder of our team, persevering through the hard times, and being recognised for what brought so many of us to the industry — the joy of hospitality,” Bishoff said at the awards. 

BKK Social Club receiving the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award and #10 in Asia.

Elvis Lives!

Elvis is alive, at least in spirit at Hong Kong’s Honky Tonks Tavern. Honky Tonks’ Edgarito Santillan, formerly of Terrible Baby, was at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 to collect the award for Campari’s One To Watch. Honky Tonks Tavern was a new entry at #55 of the extended list, and features – as you’d expect – an extensive collection of bourbons and ryes, fun signatures like their Mucho Danger with jalepeno tequila and mezcal, lots of hip lo-fi wines and plenty of ‘love, peace and chicken grease’ with grass-fed hanger steak and sweet heat chicken sandwiches, tater tots, and mac & cheese. Yee-haw.

Lockdown Lessons

Lockdown was traumatic for most of us, but it was rich with life lessons. Take Hiroyasu Kayama and his team at his “14-seat sanctuary” in Shinjuku, Bar Benfiddich, the Best Bar In Japan, and #5 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list. Lockdown meant he got to spend more time than ever on his farm, just outside Tokyo. There, in the fields of what used to be his parent’s dairy farm, he’d been growing wormwood, camomile and yuzu, ingredients that turn into the mysterious infusions filling the jars on the bar’s shelves. And lockdown helped him broaden his array of farm-grown ingredients even more. “Modern alchemist” Hiroyasu Kayama also deservedly took home the Rémy Martin Legend of the List Award 2022.

Smoke & Bitters, the best bar in Sri Lanka.

Up In Smoke

Or, more accurately, Smoke & Bitters, Sri Lanka’s first ever entry onto the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. Smoke & Bitters made the dizzying leap from #91 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021 list to #42 this time around. The bar, in a coconut grove on the island nation’s stunning southern coast, is a tropical paradise where owner Don Ranasinghe and his team in “their humble little spot” serve “food, drinks, sunsets and the smiles.” The achievement is particularly inspiring considering the pandemic almost caused Smoke & Bitters to close. Thankfully, they hung on, and Smoke & Bitters continue to serve their flame-licked food and tiki-style cocktails to adoring local and tourist guests. 

Kieth Motsi [left] from the best bar in Korean, Charles H in Seoul, and also the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender.

Cocktails With Seoul 

Is the South Korean capital the new cocktail hotspot in the region? Charles H’s maestro Keith Motsi, with a career spanning Soho House London and EQUIS at Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, definitely thinks so. The Altos Bartenders’ Bartender 2022, who was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Leeds, explained that Charles H, named the best bar in Korea at #7 on the list, is part of a next-level bar scene emerging in Korea. “I really do think Seoul is becoming a cocktail Mecca,” he told attendees at the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 press conference. 

One In A Hundred

As with the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list, Vietnam fared badly in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list this time around. Last year’s new entries in the extended 51-100 list, Hybrid Nha Trang, Summer Experiment, and Ne Cocktail Bar all disappeared off the list. That left one new entry. But at least in Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail Vietnam has a representative to be proud of (which is why we hyped its opening back in March 2021). The award-winning team of Thep Dinh and Lam Duc Anh have claimed cocktail culture for Vietnam with an all-Vietnamese signatures menu that takes inspiration from the street food served outside. Việt Nam cố lên!

Bar Tesouro in Colva, Goa was awarded best bar in India, and #4 in Asia.

It’s A Goa

Back in the early 2000s, Goa was still the sunkissed, hippyish haunt of backpackers. Then the government decided to target the former Portuguese colony for redevelopment, turning it into something like the Ibiza of India at exactly the time when domestic travel was picking up. A sign of the evolution and elevation of the southwestern state is Bar Tesouro, the Best Bar In India at #4 on the list, and a place that combines “classic Goan joie de vivre with sophisticated urban Indian vibes”. But it’s not just Goa that’s embracing cocktail culture. In fact, Tesouro was one of five bars in India in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list. Three bars in Delhi reached the top 50: Sidecar was named #14, Hootss was named #26, and Home was #30, and one bar in Bengaluru, Copitas was named #44. 

Bar Trigona, the best bar in Malaysia, also won the inaugural Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award.

Beehive Yourself 

In case you missed the memo, here we go: the bees are in danger! Thankfully, Bar Trigona at Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur is doing something about it. That’s because visitors can adopt a beehive. They even receive six jars of honey harvested from the hive they’ve sponsored. The menu is pretty special too. So special, in fact, that Bar Trigona won the inaugural Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award.

All photos courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

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